Believe it or not, the Las Vegas Raiders are one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the AFC. And while the other squad, the Denver Broncos, beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants (a combined 7-25 in 2020), the Raiders have wins against perennial contenders like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers (who went 23-9 in 2020). However, before we start posing my favorite September and October question, “are the Raiders for real?,” I’d like to see the Silver and Black pass one more test.
And believe it or not, that test is the Miami Dolphins. The same Miami Dolphins that just lost 35-0 at home.
The Miami Dolphins Will Tell Us How Good the Las Vegas Raiders Are
On the surface, it’s a silly sentiment. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are consistently contending in the AFC, and the Raiders didn’t look out of place delivering them their only losses of the young season. Why should Raider Nation care about the Dolphins, a squad that barely edged out the Mac Jones Patriots and was demolished by the Bills? Especially considering they’ll be playing in Las Vegas and might even be without their starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa.
Frankly, that’s exactly why I’m concerned. Because over the last few years, the Raiders have developed a nasty habit of competing with the best of the best, only to get caught napping by sub-.500 teams. Don’t believe me? Here’s some proof. In 2020, the Raiders played half of their games against eventual playoff teams. They won three of those games, coming down to the wire in losses against the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Their week five win over the Chiefs in Kansas City sent shockwaves throughout the NFL, and had people believing the Silver and Black were a playoff squad.
That same Raiders lost 43-6 to a three win Atlanta Falcons squad that hasn’t sniffed a victory since. It took a last-second Hail Mary to beat a New York Jets team that won two games. They only beat a 5-11 Denver Broncos team by one point.
And it wasn’t just last year. The year before, the Raiders were 6-4 with a high-profile win over the Chicago Bears, and then a three game win streak ended with a 34-3 drubbing by the Jets, who had the worst offense in football. The Raiders show up and compete against the class of the NFL, but then play down to the lesser competition.
Enter the Miami Dolphins.
Jackpot or Bankrupt
There is no reason why the Las Vegas Raiders shouldn’t beat the Miami Dolphins. The Raiders should be healthier, they’re at home, and they are on a hot streak. This Dolphins team just looked completely hopeless against the Bills, and they will probably start the hapless Jacoby Brissett under center. Even if they don’t, it’s not like Tua Tagovailoa has been a superstar at quarterback.
After mostly shutting down the offenses of the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gus Bradley’s much-improved Raiders defense should be able to handle what the Dolphins are doing. And next to the Steelers and Ravens defenses, does Miami really represent a threat?
All I’m saying is that, on paper, the Raiders should handily defeat Miami. The Silver and Black should have no issue with the Dolphins, and they should enter week four’s match-up with the Los Angeles Chargers undefeated. And if the Raiders are “for real,” that’s exactly what they’ll do.
However, if the Raiders need a fourth-quarter drive to beat the Dolphins, or god forbid, they lose, then it’s groundhog day all over again. Another season of the Raiders proving they can beat anybody while simultaneously being able to lose to anybody, the curse of Jon Gruden’s Raiders.